Explore Avoncliff

Westwood and Winsley, Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire

The hamlet of Avoncliff is shared by the parishes of Westwood, on the southern side of the River Avon and Winsley on the northern. It lies in a narrow part of the gorge-like valley, where a weir provided power for mills on both sides. The river, the Kennet & Avon Canal and the railway are the most notable features.

 

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The Westwood side

Avoncliff AqueductLinking the two sides of Avoncliff is the aqueduct that carries the Kennet & Avon Canal across the river. It was built of local stone in the 1790s, to the design of the engineer John Rennie (1761-1821). As part of the restoration of the canal in the 1980s, it was lined with a reinforced concrete trough as the structure had become weak.

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The Cross Guns pubThe Cross Guns public house, possibly dating back as far as the beginning of the 17th century, occupies a short row of cottages below the canal. It may take its name from the rifle range of the local volunteer regiment that was nearby. It has been said that it had previously been called the Carpenters’ Arms, however two separate pubs in “Anclift” – ‘The Guns’ and ‘The Carpenters’s Arms’ – were advertised for sale in 1795.

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Former Bradford Union WorkhouseAncliff Square is a range of houses on the old track towards Freshford. It was probably built in the 1790s as accommodation for apprentice workers at the woollen cloth mills, but was converted to be the “workhouse” of the Bradford Poor Law Union in 1835. The last few inmates were transferred to Warminster in 1917 and the building became a Red Cross hospital, treating soldiers injured in the Great War. Next, in 1923 it became the Old Court Hotel, but was requisitioned in the Second World War as the offices of the British Museum, whose collection was stored in Westwood Quarry on the hill above. From 1948 it was empty and for sale until 1952, when made into flats.

> Old photographs of the Avoncliff Red Cross Hospital

Avoncliff QuarryThe steep hill above the river is where Avoncliff gained its name. Good freestone was extracted from Avoncliff Quarries, which were open sites and miles of underground passages that followed the best beds from adits in the hillside.

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The Winsley side

Winsley side millThe mill on the Winsley side of the weir was mainly used for grinding flour, but also had a period during which flock (shredded and ground clothing fibres) was produced from old clothes and another for producing chlorophyll. The railway was built through the premises in 1857 and part was rebuilt in 1883 after a fire. After many years of dilapidation, during which the roof fell in, it is now being converted into housing and there are plans to generate electricity from the weir.

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Mill HouseMill Cottage was the home of the owner or manager of the mill, but became separated from the industrial buildings when the railway was built between them in 1857. The store on the end was used by the County Council for storing road salt, which has damaged the stone of the wall.

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Former Bradford Waterworks pumphouseOpposite Mill Cottage is a house that was built in 1883 as the pumping station of the Bradford Waterworks. It was used for pumping a supply of water from a well and adits in the hillside up to the main reservoir on the Bradford Road in Winsley.

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Avoncliff StationThe Wilts Somerset & Weymouth Railway’s Bathampton to Bradford branch was opened in 1857 and involved burrowing under the Kennet & Avon Canal aqueduct. Avoncliff Halt was opened in 1906 and did not suffer from the axe in the Beeching era of the 1960s, mainly because it was not practical to replace the trains with buses.

 

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